Yesterday on CBC Radio One’s Alberta at Noon I presented Food Trends 2013 – a brief summary of what food we’ll all be savouring in our lives in 2013 based on what’s currently trending globally to closer to home – locally. The podcast above is the Cole’s notes version. I start at around the 17:30 mark in the show and have six minutes of precious air time. This blog will be a more comprehensive version.
I like patterns and I like to watch them morph over time. Long term observation makes it easy to spot changes. Changes make for good stories. Here are changes I’ve seen or am predicting. It’ll be fun to see what stories flow from them. I’ll start globally and work locally; that’s a continuing trend.
The Global Outlook
Where’s a good place to start? I like to look at San Pellegrino’s list of the Top 50 restaurants in the world. I figure who ever is on top of that list is going to set the trends for others to follow.
A few years ago when Spain’s ElBulli was the #1 restaurant in the world (for a record-breaking 5 years in a row) and everyone wanted to become molecular gastronomists. Ferran and Albert Adria invented “techno-emotive” cuisine and used their culinary laboratory to develop soy foam, balsamic pearls and foods that were designed via molecular gastronomic (understanding food structure and chemistry at a cellular level) techniques to make you not only feel emotions as you ate but that also were capable of provoking irony at times. Their work has had such a trickle down effect that one of the hottest gifts for food lovers in 2012 was DIY Molecular Gastronomy kits. Now the brothers Adria have closed ElBulli (it’s becoming a foundation for the preservation of nature and experience of culinary expertise all based on the concept of a cell – very enigmatic cutting edge stuff) and have just opened three new restaurants – a Spanish Tapas bar, a Japanese-Peruvian fusion place and a Mexican restaurant. Guess what restaurants are opening across the globe? Thank goodness, the Adrias are focusing on Mexican. The real Mexican cuisine is heartbreakingly beautiful. The heartbreak part comes only when it is taken out of the hands of Mexican chefs and turned into a Tex Mex abomination. I look forward to a world where Mexican food is treated with the kind of respect the Adrias will give it.
Keeping a focus on San Pellegrino’s list, now that Rene Redzepi’s Noma restaurant in Copenhagen is the #1 restaurant we’ve been seeing an influx of all things Scandinavian and that will continue to grow because he has stayed atop that list for a second year. I’ll give you three great examples of the influence he is having. The hottest new cookbooks for Christmas this year were all Scandinavian – Sweden’s Fävikan was one. Bon Appétit is running stories on Smørrebrød and Smorgasbords galore and just like Noma’s chief claim to fame; hyper-local-seasonal niche products with and without a Scandinavian flair for smoking and pickling are huge everywhere.
Another global trend is a rise in technological applications with food apps and online shopping. I’ve seen several spice, wine and gourmet warehouses add online shopping in Alberta this year. Everybody and their dog has a blog about food. I can understand that. It’s a compelling topic for many of us. To use a food analogy, the cream rises to the top and there’s a trend for book deals and online shops for the top bloggers. Indeed that is the goal of many a blogger. The technological wizardry of machines has increased and there are vending machines for baguettes in Paris and cupcakes in L.A. In Argentina you can watch a potato get cut up and deep-fried in a vending machine that will then spit out fresh chips for you. Even McDonald’s has ordering kiosks to make the speed at which you get your fast food even faster. Fast food has become even more removed from anything that could tie it to a name or face or God forbid a farmer or butcher.
At the opposite end of the spectrum from likes of the golden arches and its competition, creeps the careful Slow Food International (SFI) symbol; the Snail. Even before Carlo Petrini, the founder of SFI, was named by The Guardian as one of the 50 people most likely to save our planet I’ve been watching this group. Biodiversity, heritage skills preservation, fish in the ocean, seeds for saving; these things are all on people’s minds because of SFI. Mainly because they’ve got answers and strategies. I’ll continue to keep an eye on them and their communities or convivium memberships will continue to grow worldwide. Hope and action are contagious especially when the message is delivered via food.
Another area I found hope in this year was totally unexpected. I went to a talk given by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) on Sustainable Fisheries. Though there is still much to cause concern, there is a reversal and small but growing trend towards sustainable fisheries on this very blue planet. I know several fisheries off the coast of British Columbia that decided to take matters in their own hands. They fish sustainably, work with the government to sponsor studies to determine quotas, have traceability labelling and are either selling directly to consumers or working with major brands through organizations like MSC to enlist major distributors into the branding approval systems. I love this trend.
Closer to Home – North America
Looking at a number of media sources from across North America here’s a summary of trends spotted.
1. Vegetables are growing in popularity – even Sesame St. ditched the cookie monster in favour of their new character the veggie monster. Restaurants are having more vegetables as mains, not just as sides and salads. Kale is on top now. A sure sign Kale has been elevated in rank in the veggie kingdom is its rise to Earth Bound Farms clamshell package status right there in the supermarket fridge alongside the highly revered arugula. Kale chips, raw and dehydrated or baked and treated with every other taste treatment known to man, are everywhere. The most exciting vegetable I saw this year was beautiful red spinach in a little vegetable market in Kerala, India and then shock, shock didn’t I see red spinach at a well-know food industry distributor’s showcase event. I predict lots of red spinach. It’s beautiful and tastes great. If you don’t see it in 2013, just wait, it’ll come.
2. Grains are becoming ever more powerful and I thought we might be done with Quinoa but lo and behold the United Nations have declared 2013 as the year of Quinoa (maybe this is a new path to world peace?). The two grain savvy women, Patricia Green and her sister Carolyn Hemming, who wrote the smash hit Quinoa 365 have just released Quinoa Revolution which is sure to be another home run for them. But other ancient grains like kamut, millet, spelt and amaranth will have their time on our plates and in our glasses as ever more grains are made into milk for the non-dairy crowd. Forget rice and almonds, look for hemp, oats and flax milk anyone?
3. Chicken is a trend. I couldn’t believe how many sources cited this because I agree with Anthony Bourdain who says chicken is on menus for people who don’t know what to order. I think its pretty boring but chicken is going to be big because while there are artificially low grocery prices in Canada right now because of the Target moving in nation-wide, restaurants are seeing ever-increasing costs for beef, lamb and seafood. Chicken is something they can buy cheaply and use their talents to fancy up. We’ll also see heirloom varieties of chickens like we do turkeys and pigs now and I do welcome that because in general people who raise heirloom varieties of animals practice beautiful animal husbandry and the world needs a return to sanity in that arena.
4. Developments in the restaurant scene will see the continuation of the “Pop-up” phenomenom but hotels will get in on the act to fill dead spaces and times in their huge facilities. David Chang’s Momofuku in NYC caused Asian food to surge in popularity and now we’ll see more Mexican but the real authentic cuisine and not the Tex Mex abomination of that beautiful ancient cuisine. Remember I said the Adria brothers were doing Peruvian and Mexican –we are seeing both factions coming on strong here in Calgary. Food trucks will continue because they cater to the perpetual munchers we have become. We eat less big meals but we snack all the time and those food trucks will be there for us.
5. Because there is a trend for healthier and more balanced dining, we’ll see “balanced” as a buzz word. There is a new chain in the United States called True Food and it is based on the very popular anti-inflammatory diet of Dr. Andrew Wiehle with all whole foods, organic, fresh juices, and nothing processed or refined. I ate at the Laguna Beach True Food outlet last spring and could quite happily show up at their trough to dine daily for the rest of my existence. In Edmonton, Alberta the long-reigning gardening guru family, the Hole’s have opened a massive sort of lifestyle and food hall called Enjoy Centre. It appears it will be filled with eateries and restaurants catering to organic and balanced food provisioning. In Calgary places like Community Natural’s Community café, The Coup and Boxwood café are comparable.
6. In the category of “freaky foods” we’ll see “marinated hotdogs” in the scary section and in the healthy section expect to see seaweed (kombu and nori) everywhere – on crackers and fries and in salads, butter and even cereal. It’s not just sushi that will be wrapped up in seaweed.
7. Niche foods and organic foods will continue to be the largest growing sector of the food industry. I say this because I’ve been watching a group called Slow Money in the United States develop a unique funding mechanism for these smaller farms who don’t qualify for traditional agricultural development loans because they are too small and yet they don’t qualify for bank loans because they are seen as risky farms and not solid businesses no matter how strong the demand is for their beautiful and popular products. Slow Money is gaining momentum.
Even Closer to home – Alberta – our local
My predictions are as follows:
1. Sourcing your food locally will continue to get stronger and in fact more people will source directly (hyper local like at Noma!). They’ll either grow it themselves or make the effort to meet their grower and buy directly from that person. Food scares like the XL Beef scare of 2012 (e.coli found and massive plant shut down for months near Brooks, Alberta – enough said) may be to blame for this but the silver lining in the disaster is huge increases in community gardens and increased subscriptions to Community Shared Agriculture including meat CSA’s.
2. One of the most exciting trends is that people are rediscovering heritage food skills like bread making, preserving, hunting and fishing. There’s even a company in Edmonton called Shovel and Fork that will teach people to make bread, sharpen knives, build cob ovens and cook in them, butcher, ice fish, hunt and preserve.
3. We are going to see an increase in amount of cheese we eat in Alberta and I think that’s because there’s been a huge increase in great cheese available. We have about 16 cheese makers in Alberta right now and when I first started writing about food six years ago there were three or four. Valeria Lugonja who blogs at “A Canadian Foodie” is leading a cheese making challenge called Cheesapalooza and there’s a company in Calgary called “Make Cheese” that sells cheese making kits over the internet and does in home cheese making classes.
4. Several bloggers and newspapers I read noted a positive trend for more families cooking at home and more men in charge of grocery shopping.
5. We are going to make a lot more soup in Alberta and all across Canada because a book called The Soup Sisters Cookbook is #1 on The Globe and Mail bestsellers list right now. All the funds from the book go to help the Soup Sisters non-profit organization provide monthly supplies of soup to domestic abuse shelters across Canada. The Soup Sisters was founded with one operation in Calgary less than 3 years ago and now has 15 operations in 10 Canadian cities. It will expand in the States and go viral.
Are you still reading?
Bless you. Here’s your reward. I’m going to post a very funny video on people’s interest/obsession with sourcing local and another of our trends, chicken, is the light-hearted butt of the humour. If you click on soup in my tag words to the right you’ll find a previous blog with a few great soup recipes. The “January Recover Soup” is filled with vegetables that will help you keep your resolutions to eat more “balanced food” for 2013. Above all, I’ll wish for you to Savour your Food and Savour your Life in 2013. That will be a great trend to see.